We have to talk about anxiety. Too many people are dealing with anxiety but may not even know that that is what they are experiencing.
Just within the past couple of years, I came to the conclusion that I have anxiety. I never knew what anxiety was growing up so, in my head, I was just ALWAYS stressed and I could never figure out why my friends didn’t have the same reactions that I did when they were going through similar things. I eventually chalked it up to how my brain worked and tried to ignore the signs my body was giving me.
Anxiety takes on a different form for many people. Some people merely experience anxiety, and others face anxiety attacks. Anxiety can be a form of feeling overstressed, or a desire to figure out how to fix all of the problems at hand at once.
Anxiety comes in so many different forms and varies from person to person.
One friend has described her anxiety as feeling like multiple people are throwing up in her brain all at once.
Another friend has explained that everything just seemed like it was going out of control and the stress added up to anxiety.
I have a lot of little versions of me in my head that start to talk about all of the things that I haven’t yet done or that I need to do until I can’t figure out which voice is actually me. I’m always thinking about the worst-case scenario.
And then there are anxiety attacks.
For me, it comes in the sensation of someone grabbing my lungs so tightly that I can’t breathe while a loud voice echoes through my head and tells me that I can’t do it all. This can often result in me crying, and in the worst attack I had, I even threw up.
My friend says her attacks consist of fast and shallows breaths, lightheadedness, and severe feelings of lack of control. Sometimes she even experiences a random breakdown that comes out of nowhere.
I often don’t even realize the attack has happened until after it passes or I’m right in the middle of one. I end up not being able to move or provide myself with the things that tend to calm me down.
The sad thing is that because I didn’t know what anxiety was growing up, or that I even had it, I didn’t know there were ways to help it.
My anxiety hit its peak in high school. I was on the soccer team, I wanted to hang onto the friends I had managed to keep since elementary school that were starting to drift, and I was constantly trying to compete with others academically without even knowing why I was doing it.
For me, there even comes a sense of paranoia. I was so terrified of losing friends that my brain was able to convince myself that there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t fathom that it was just life getting in the way and showing us it was time to move on with our lives. To lose friends is hard in the first place, but to add anxiety to the mix makes you continually second guess your own actions when there isn’t even anything to analyze.
There were many nights of crying over what was going to happen with my grades and if I was adequate enough. When I was studying for a test or prepping for a test, no matter how prepared I was, I was so stressed about if I was still good enough. I got out of high school with a 3.987 because I refused to let myself forget about that tiny little bump that would have resulted in a 4.0.
Then came college. I had been told through a lot of my high school career (in those AP classes that I HAD to take) that C’s were normal so, for whatever reason, I didn’t break down when I got my first C in a class. I wasn’t happy about it, but I was able to accept it and move on.
I started to realize how unhealthy the standards I had held myself to in high school were. I had never been happy because I was always concerned about what others thought and if those mini Angelas would come roaring back to tell me of all my missteps.
For me, music is probably my biggest blessing when it comes to anxiety attacks. If I can feel it coming soon enough, I can put in a pair of headphones and block out the world. I focus on the beats that I know are coming without fail, and that calms me enough to regain access to my lungs and keep moving.
Sometimes I still find I have triggers that I didn’t even know about. Last semester I was walking on campus and the number of people and noise surrounding me was too much. My anxiety had always been caused by assignments or tiny insecurities that I noticed in myself that weren’t even worth noticing, so the fact that a crowd was detrimental was new.
TALK ABOUT YOUR ANXIETY. I cannot stress enough how important that is. After I have an anxiety attack, I try and talk to someone that has dealt with me when I’ve had one before. Tell people what helps. Like I said, sometimes you don’t know even know the panic attack is happening until it’s full on, and if you have a friend or family member that can recognize how you act when you are about to experience one, they can remind you of the ways that normally calm you down.
Talking to a counselor is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve had friends that have dealt with anxiety tell me that it was a tremendous help for them and that they wished they had sought out help sooner.
If you love someone that has anxiety, just be patient. Trust me, most of the time we are more frustrated with ourselves for reacting the way that we do than we let on. It means the world when you aren’t looked at like you’re crazy even though you can’t get your own brain under control. To say that I’m more than thankful to the friends that have stuck by me despite my anxiety is an understatement.
The anxiety is still there. I’ve finally accepted that it will probably always be there. I’ve chosen to not let it define me, but it helps me to remember that there are times when I can avoid the triggers that lead to my anxiety. My anxiety is a part of me, but it no longer owns me.